Trainer Stuart Edmunds is keen to let Rowland Ward take his chance in the Pertemps Network Swinton Handicap Hurdle at Haydock on Saturday, but admits he will only run if conditions are suitable.
Having signed off last season with victory in a handicap hurdle at the Randox Grand National Festival at Aintree, the five-year-old could bid to get his new campaign off to a flyer by stepping back up in class in the Grade Three feature race on Saturday.
Although Edmunds expects Rowland Ward to enjoy the fast-run nature of the extended 1m7f prize he will be keeping a close eye on the ground before making a final decision over his participation.
Edmunds said: “Ground-permitting the plan is to run in the Swinton. It was good ground when I entered him and they’ve watered the hurdle track. He wants it good or softer. If it goes good to firm he won’t go but I don’t think it will get like that.
“He is in great form and a strongly-run two miles really suits him as he travels so well in his races. The faster they go the better it is for him."
Reflecting on Rowland Ward’s latest success, the Newport Pagnell handler believes much was down to the ride he was given on the day by jockey Charlie Hammond.
He said: “I think everything was perfect for him at Aintree as it was always going to be fast and furious. It was a brave ride by Charlie as he had to go round the inside and I don’t think he saw a hurdle until the third last.
“It was pretty scary watching it let alone riding it. We had been protecting him a bit all last season as he only really had two and a half runs the previous season, but he seemed to cope with handicaps well.”
Although Edmunds feels there is improvement left in Rowland Ward he expects to face a stern challenge from the Olly Murphy-trained ante-post favourite Copperless, who fell while in behind him at Aintree when chasing a hat-trick.
Edmunds added: “Rowland Ward is rated 83 on the Flat so I hope there is a bit of improvement still in him as he was a decent Flat horse.
“He has gone up 10lbs but you don’t mind that when you win a proper race at a big track, while he would have barely got in this off his old mark.
“Olly Murphy’s horse Copperless was still travelling well at Aintree behind us when he took a tumble and if he is none the worse for that he could be thrown in against us.”
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